Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mom, movies, me

Well, I made a bit of time this week to see Midnight Special and, just tonight, 10 Cloverfield Lane, which has hit the second-run screens. I enjoyed, but wasn't that impressed with, both films: Midnight Special has interesting ambitions and its share of effective moments, including a strong performance from Joel Edgerton (who I best remember as Gordo from the "victim's revenge" movie The Gift, though he was also in Zero Dark Thirty; I briefly mistook him for Stephen McHattie's cohort in A History of Violence, but that's some other guy). One trouble is, too much of its suspense lies in the witholding of information, which, when you think of it, is a fairly easy trick to accomplish when its the filmmakers who have all the information in the first place. In the end, something stops it from being a fully satisfying film (unlike Nichols' earlier Take Shelter or Mud, both of which maybe have flaws, but work, and make a mark; it's been too long since I saw Shotgun Stories for me to really evaluate it.)

On the other hand, 10 Cloverfield Lane is thoroughly engaging and invenitve  as a continuation of Cloverfield - it is the maybe least sequel-feeling sequel ever made - but feels kind of, ultimately, trivial, with no real interest value on the level of its meaning (spoiler: "what if the crazy survivalist was right all along?"). While I don't regret the time I spent with friends during both films, I wonder if I really needed either movie in my life when my Mom is doing so poorly.. I mean, sure, "I needed to recharge my battery" and all, "I needed to take a break." I've said both, but... doesn't that all smack of rationalization? It was nice to have a couple nights out of the hospital but, you know, I would feel pretty guilty if Mom died while I was off watching a movie.

Today was day 26 of Mom's stay in the hospital. Each thing that has gone wrong, and/or the treatment thereof, has led to further complications, requiring further treatment; the gallstone that started everything was removed on March 30th, but she's still in hospital, with no sign of immediate release.  At present the biggest scare is damage to her heart. It hasn't been a strong heart since 2009, but now, signs of congestive heart failure are running rampant: cold hands and feet, swelling legs and ankles which are weeping fluid, deep wet coughing, kidney pain, dropping blood-oxygen levels when she's not receiving oxygen, a lowering of blood pressure... They say that her vitals are good, but she's not in ICU anymore, so I'm not sure how thorough they're being in monitoring them, and there have been a few moments when I doubt that the system as it exists is up to the task of giving her what she needs. I may just be being oversensitive - the doctors and nurses genuinely don't seem that worried about her, and are trying to reassure me - but there is no coming back from congestive heart failure, slow a process as it may be; I was told that years ago. And there was a terrifying half hour this afternoon where Mom was gasping and crying and clinging to me while her body was wracked with shivers and muscle spasms, mostly in her right arm - the not-a-heart-attack arm, but still. We were both telling each other we loved each other and I was trying to say comforting things, while praying inwardly that the nurse would hurry up with whatever he was bringing, but it took a long time and put us both through the wringer, as I tried to get her to calm down and breathe through her nose (and turned up her oxygen supply). I only let go of her hand to bring a photo of Dad closer, so she'd be able to see his face smiling at her...

Anyhow, the nurse came, meds were given - some sort of steamy inhaler to help her breathe and a painkiller - and the spasm passed. She was a little trembly for a bit, but all the same, we spent the next several hours listening to music - Kenny Rogers, Jim Croce, Charley Pride, and the odd mix I've made, including ones she and Dad and I used to play Scrabble to - and doing jigsaw puzzles (I think we got five done today!). We've done one or more of them each day, since it occured to me to bring the first one on the weekend - the day of the Residents show, in fact. These are some favourite pics I've taken, and I've put them, I believe, in the sequence of the puzzles we have done so far. I go quite a bit faster than she does, so when I find a piece, or put together several too quickly in a row, she growls at me and and says, "you're good," jealously, or maybe, "you're pissing me off!" Sometimes she just growls and glares and makes a fist, of course with her fine sense of wry humour behind it.

I always let her do the last few pieces by herself.

There have been a few other delightful times with Mom, despite the hospital setting - like the first time I took her out to explore the grounds in a wheelchair, and we ran into Teddy the Therapy Dog. He was so friendly! I think this was before "contact precautions" were declared (or at least before they were explained to me).

Another sweet moment: our one day in the garden out back, maybe a little over a week ago, where I wheeled her to a very pretty spot and we sat in the shade, watching the branches blow in the trees, drinking diet pop, and observing one squirrel that came by, showing only the briefest flicker of curiosity towards the banana peel I offered him (it was all I had). At a couple of points Mom remarked that it - the garden, the breeze, the whole moment - was so wonderful, she didn't mind being sick. I was glad that she felt so happy, though that seemed a little hyperbolic to me!

Sometimes there are just photo ops I can't resist, like the "what is that" pic from the day they got their wires crossed and served her food pureed (she's pointing at the green mounds, which, it turns out, were pureed broccoli. Nice that they give you a card telling you what everything is, because, barring tasting them, I never would have guessed). There are a few other pics I really like, below.

Perhaps my favourite moments of all came tonight, however, and I have no photographs to accompany them. I had brought a stack of movies I thought would be appropriate for her - Michael Apted's Nell, for instance, plus some films I only just picked up off a friend yesterday: Elaine May's A New Leaf, Sirk's Magnificent Obsession, Mazursky's Harry and Tonto, a Marlene Deitrich set. I figured they all might appeal to her, or that at least one would. She was kind of shrugging at her choices, though, so I glanced over at my backpack, where I had a few other options tucked away. "Um... do you want to watch a horror movie?"

"Yaaah!" she said. Y'see, I had, thinking I might bug Lynn Lowry for signatures this upcoming Saturday, packed three of her better known films along with me when I left from Burnaby this morning, in case I actually end up at the Northwest Horror Show. I contemplated the options - Mom is sick, she's experiencing plenty of "body horror" moments, so why not go for Cronenberg?

Yes, folks, Mom and I watched Shivers in the lounge area this evening. She laughed aloud several times: when the "poor little birdie" hit the umbrella, when the parasite was worming its way out of the mailbox, and maybe most entertainingly, when the infected old lady grabbed the bellboy, saying "I'm hungry! I'm hungry for love!" I shared what anecdotes about the making of the film that I could - like the one where Barbara Steele took umbrage at Cronenberg slapping one of the junior actresses (but at her request, to help her get into character as an abused housewife). Usually Mom rolls her eyes at my horror movies but I could tell she was entertained aplenty by this one. Even if she remarked at the end that it was the stupidest movie she'd ever seen (that one's for you, Robin Wood), she admitted she enjoyed having watched it.

It's, I guess, not the worst way to end a life, if that's what's happening here, though I wonder if I'm storing up all these positive moments to help balance out what I imagine will be a crushing sense of guilt and failure when she's gone?

Then again, maybe the doctors and nurses will surprise me and prove right and she'll pull through. I hope so. Meantime - I have an article promised for Friday and I have to be up at 8:30 AM so I can get to the hospital nice and early, with a new assortment of jigsaws in tow, so no more blogging for now.

Hang in there, Mom. I'll be there soon.


David M. said...

A lot of people wouldn't do any of what you're doing. Your mom is getting plenty of the best kind of attention, thanks to you and Erika. There are a lot of people who have nobody. Also, "Shivers" is meant to be stupid.

Allan MacInnis said...

Thank you David! Briefly, this morning was really bad, but the Lasix seems to be helping her lose fluids RAPIDLY, so her swellings are going down and her breathing is improving. So I have some hope again.

But it is hard for me to believe that my behaviour here is in any way exceptional or particularly praiseworthy, y'know? It just feels like the right thing to do. I kinda blew it with my Dad, so I want to do better this time....

Allan MacInnis said...

For those following closely, FYI, Mom had her final episode of heart failure yesterday night, and passed at 10:15 PM (-ish). Some of her last acts on earth were asking my girlfriend Erika to help put clips in her hair and then sticking out her tongue a few times for photos that I alas, did not capture. She was pretty exhausted and confused, but alert all day, and we had a lot of fun, music, stories and sweetness. It was a great month. That's all I'm gonna say for now tho.